How are you? I mean… how are you REALLY? So many of us will be in totally different circumstances during this pandemic. Some will be key workers and still out there on the front lines, while some of us will be literally locked in to save themselves and others. Some of us will have had the virus and tragically, so many will not make it through this.
How do you think you’ll feel when we come out of this? I ask because I’ve had a very interesting few months battling with my own mind during lockdown.
Anxiety is hard to deal with, it makes it almost impossible to enjoy anything at all. But there are ways to cope, there are people who can help and it does get better. At the start of this year I was in a really good place, I was finding the new me and I was starting to like her. And then lockdown hit.
We all know that lockdown is 100% the right thing to do; we must stay home, protect our health system and save lives. Many of us, as I do, have elderly relatives with multiple underlying health conditions, and if staying in can save them then that is what I will do. I would stay in for as long as it takes to save anyone. This world is cruel and cold enough without having to deal with something as horrific as this.
These are unprecedented times, times that some of us have never seen before and hope to never see again in our lifetimes. For me, the first few weeks of lockdown were good, I kept to a normal routine. I got up at the same time I usually did for work, ate meals at the same time and had so many video calls to fill my day that the hours flew by. Soon enough we had been in lockdown for a month and I hadn’t even really thought about it. I distanced myself from the constant news of devastation across the world for my own sanity. But being told to maintain socially distant even when we came out of lockdown started to play on my mind.
I missed the old world. What would this new world look and feel like?
Interestingly I found myself in a new circular mind game; fighting against something I couldn’t see, and something that was not of my own doing. We are all fighting an invisible enemy. It started to creep back in, my anxiety. I noticed it straight away and knew I had to stop it.
I could feel my mental health slowly fading. I couldn’t concentrate on anything and all I wanted to do was eat. I washed my hands so many times they started to crack and bleed and then I put plasters over them in case the virus got through the cuts. Mail was left unopened for weeks and I felt like humans were now the enemy. I immediately contacted my therapist and had a video call; as always talking about everything that was going on in my head to someone who doesn’t judge really helped me.
If you can relate, then here are a few things (by no means professional advice) that have helped me;
- Keep up with the facts rather than the fiction about the virus; understand what to look out for and stay informed -(https://www.who.int/)
- Use proven tools and techniques such as the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.independent.co.uk/life-style/anxiety-5-4-3-2-1-mindfulness-activity-trick-how-does-it-work-ease-anxiousness-immediately-a8199296.html%3famp)
- Fill your days, plan ahead; fill every hour if needed so there is no empty time to allow your mind to start swirling.
- Video call friends as much as possible; talk about nonsense and remember to laugh.
- Exercise as much as possible in the house, garden or outside (whilst being socially distant) to relieve frustrations and cabin fever.
I haven’t been out for over 14 weeks now and I don’t really want to. When I go out for the first time I know that anxiety will greet me like an old friend, but I am battle ready this time. I do, however, feel like we could be on the edge of a massive mental health crisis after this lockdown. A tidal wave of pent up emotions and fear cascading out of millions of us across the world. We all have good days and bad days; there are people I know who have never suffered with their mental health before who have needed therapy during this time.
It does not mean you are weak if you need help; life is hard. We all need someone to help us sometimes.
Try and think of it this way; you are just taking some time out of your life. You are taking a break and re-grouping. We will all be ok and we will return to some sort of normality soon. Don’t give up.
What is the reason we are so fearful of this pandemic? Because we want to live. Your own mortality is something you may not think about much, but at times like these you do and you realize you want to live. And that my friends, is amazing. It may not sound like it but it means you have a reason to want to stay.
Remember, you are not alone. Stay safe and ask for help if you need it. I leave you with a thought; in the rush back to normality, think about which parts of your life you want to return to and which you don’t.
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Like most people I have had to battle my own mental health issues over the last decade; I understand that we are all living the same hell, just with different demons. The only way we can get through our mental health issues is to ask for help and listen to each other in our darkest hours.
No one ever said this would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it. And if sharing my story can help just one person then it will be worth it. Remember, you are not alone.
Elissa is currently writing the ‘Official Antarctic Fire Angels Blog’ for an inspiring team of 6 female firefighters who plan to traverse the Antarctic in 2023. Together they are a force to be reckoned with; inspiring the next generation, pushing all out girl power to the limits, squashing stereotypes and tackling mental health head on and I am so honoured to be part of that journey with them.
“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” – Willian Ernest Henley.